Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hoping the Apple Hasn't Fallen Fall from the Tree

I’ve been living one of those “circle of life” scenarios for the past few months. My dad is the current president of the chamber of commerce in Wellington, Florida, a community just west of West Palm Beach proper. That’s Dad with my redheads and my sister Kim. Dad’s wife Kathy was Wellington’s first mayor (we called him the First Man while Kathy was in office). For the last several months Dad and Kathy have been leading the charge to bring a campus of Palm Beach Community College to Wellington. In that effort, they’ve been working very closely with PBCC’s college president, Dr. Dennis Gallon. This is where the “circle of life” thing comes in. Dr. Gallon is my former campus president and a very dear friend. We met when I first started working for the college in the early nineties. I was walking down the stairwell; he was walking up. I was carrying a Florida State Seminoles mug; he was carrying a Florida Gators mug. Though football arch-rivals and more than 20 years apart in age, we became instant friends. He left my college about ten years ago to take the presidency at Palm Beach, but we’ve stayed in close contact ever since. So with this effort, my former campus president and very dear friend is now working very closely with my father! Small world, huh? A recent editorial about the effort apparently struck a nerve with my dad and he wrote a reply. I wanted to share it with you here because I was so very proud of him when I read it. I am that “baby girl” he had at 20 he refers to, and he usually tells everyone we were kids together—he was just taller. :-)

“Editor and Village Council ~ Please allow this letter to serve as a response to the recent letter by Steve Haughn. If memory serves me, Steve worked for Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) at one time, and his son, who turned out to be a great guy and works for the Village, was lucky enough to attend and graduate from PBA and did not have to attend a “school of last resort” as Steve categorized Palm Beach Community College (PBCC). Steve stated that many who attend PBCC do so because of academics or finances. Is that bad? People with less than stellar grades and low incomes should not have a shot at an education? Let me tell you just how important what Steve calls a “school of last resort” can really be to people.

When I grew up in Miami, college was never an option to me. I had no family to support that concept. I always had trouble in school. I failed and had to repeat 7th grade and, as a result, was called one of the “left behind kids”. Anyone who has lived through that as a kid will remember the stigma. I almost did not finish high school for both academic and financial reasons. At 20 I was married with a baby girl, and I sold auto parts at Sears and parked cars at night to make a living. At 25, still selling auto parts and parking cars, I finally realized how limited my life was going to be without an education. I started nights and weekends at one of those “schools of last resort” named Miami Dade Junior College, now Miami Dade College. They made it both affordable and flexible, and in two years of working full time and taking a full time load of classes, I graduated with my AA degree in business with a 4.0 GPA. This from the stupid kid who had to repeat the 7th grade. Talk about having help in turning your life around. I went on to FAU for my BA in Business, still working full time, and in another 18 months, I had a four year college education and a BA in business. That gave me the confidence I never had growing up, confidence that I could really do something with my life. And here I am, living in a place as wonderful as Wellington, with two very successful grown daughters that I could afford to send to major universities--Kelly, who went to FSU and ended up being one of Bobby Bowden's public relations people before moving on to become a community college administrator and adjunct English instructor, and Kim, who went to UF and is a highly respected occupational therapist working with burn victims in Washington, DC. And I owe it all to what Steve refers to as a “school of last resort”. That is why this PBCC in Wellington effort is so important to me. I do not want to see any left behind kids stay left behind ~ Mike Nelson, Wellington” You go, Dad!

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4 comments:

Carmen said...

What a great letter!!!! Go Kelly's Dad!

xo,

Carmen

momoftwinz said...

I love the photo!

Wyanne said...

Your dad is the best! I hope I get to meet him sometime. :) Have a wonderful Mother's Day. Love, Wyanne

cath c said...

wow, kelly, that is beautiful. i;'m glad you linked back to this. now i can see where you get you're unbelievable energy - it's genetic.

from your slow-mo twin separated at birth and a foot shorter. ;)